After suffering their first loss of the season to the Panthers on Thursday night the Blues remain in Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drops at 6:00 CT and can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest.
We all knew that it was going to happen eventually but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening. After jumping out to a 4-0-0 start the St. Louis Blues were shelled by a fairly talented (who knew?) Panthers team.
As usual, there are a number of reason’s why the Blues appeared to be stuck in the mud for most, if not all, of the game Thursday night.
First off, it was their third game in four nights with three different start times in the Eastern time zone. Fatigue was bound to factor in and I think it is fair to say that the Blues looked pretty disinterested in all things involving a puck and some ice.
Secondly, the goaltending just wasn’t good enough. I’m not saying it was necessarily bad but with the rest of the team playing poorly Jake Allen was unable to bail them out like he had before. Even before this game there were some bad habits that had started to creep back into Jake’s game. Over committing to the shot, out of position, dropping his glove hand, were all starting to be noticeable again but only in small amounts. Thursday night they were on full display from the drop of the first puck.
Lastly, special teams let them down. For starters you cannot have over a minute of 3 on 5, while trailing in the game, and not score. The other team basically hands you a gift wrapped goal and you can’t find a way to get the freaking bow off. Also, you cannot give up a short handed goal. There is no excuse. The Blues got caught in a bad pinch and got what they deserved.
Basically, that game was a wakeup call to the Blues. Slow, sluggish, irresponsible play is not going to cut it, not with the lack of talent that plagues this team right now. The margin for error is razor thin.
Hopefully tonight we will see a rejuvenated Blues squad that is ready to take on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
In an effort to jump start his team Mike Yeo made a couple lineup changes on Friday.
Tage Thompson has been sent down to the AHL and Samuel Blais has been recalled to the Blues. Basically there where two reason. First, Blais has been shredding the competition in the AHL, and since no one on this Blues team has been able to hold on to the spot directly right of Brayden Schenn, they might as well see what Sammy can do. Secondly, playing on the third line, regardless of whether it is in the NHL, is not doing Thompson any favors. Like Mike Yeo told Lou Korac, “They aren’t trying to make a third or fourth line player out of Thompson”. The Blues fully expect him to be a 1st/2nd line player someday and he needs to play somewhere he can get minutes on a first or second line and be able to gain some confidence.
Due to the roster changes Yeo has made a couple of tweaks to the line combinations.
Here's how #stlblues ran line combos in practice today:— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) October 13, 2017
I know, I know Magnus Paajarvi shouldn’t be on the top line or the second line for that matter but before you say anything let me ask you, who are you going to put there instead?
Tage Thompson and Ivan Barbashev couldn’t hack it with Bray/Jay so there is absolutely no reason to give them top line minutes. Vladimir Sobotka and Dmitrij Jaskin belong on the third line and will hopefully bring some scoring balance to the lineup.
No matter how you shake it this roster is still incomplete, all I can say is get well soon Steener.
As for the Bolts.
Tampa Bay is just two years removed from their trip to the Eastern Conference final but just a year past missing the playoffs.
Due to injuries to key players last season the Lightening missed the playoffs by just one point. However, with a healthy Steven Stamkos in the lineup a lot of people are expecting them to unseat the Pittsburgh Penguins as the Eastern Conference champions.
Their top line is centered by one of the most gifted playmakers in the NHL and had it not been for his injury ridden career he would most definitely been in the same discussion as Crosby, Toews, Malkin and Backstrom.
Couple Stamkos with Nikita Kucherov, who already has four goals and three assists in this young season, and you can understand why this team is so dangerous.
Up and down the lineup from Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat to hard hitting, energetic veterans Chris Kunitz and Ryan Callahan this team has the talent some teams can only dream about.
On the backend the Lightning are lead by all-world defenseman Victor Hedman, who was nearly a point per game player during the 2016-17 season in which he registered 16 goals and 56 assists in 72 games.
During the offseason the Lightning brought in defenseman Dan Girardi from the New York Rangers to add some grit and defensive awareness.
Slater Koekkoek has a lot of K’s in his name, and with a name like Slater you can bet he gets all the girls.
The only real question mark that the Lightning have would be in net. After the departure of Ben Bishop to Dallas via L.A. Andrei Vasilevskiy has his first chance to be the team’s true number one. He is young and shows a lot of promise but there are always some uncertainties that surround a goalie who is thrust into the spotlight for the first time.
But really, what team doesn’t have a question mark in net. From Price to Quick to Murry no one knows from one game to the next which kind of player is going to show up. Goalies are just weird man.
The Lightning are 3-1 on the season and in the middle of a two game win streak. Their last two games the beat the Capitals 4-3 OT in overtime and then beat the Penguins 5-4 on Thursday night.
Get ready folks, the storm is fast approaching.
Thanks for reading and Go Blues.